Gardening: The cast iron plant can take tough treatment
During the past few years, online shopping has become a way of life for folks of all ages. They have everything from toilet paper to dinners delivered to their doors and included in the mix for some are plants – plants for indoors and out.
I’m not a big online shopper, especially when it comes to plants. I love the thrill of “the hunt” searching brick and mortar garden centers and nurseries for unusual specimens.
When attending the annual January Tropical Plant International Trade Show in Florida to look for the latest in foliage and floral tropicals for use as houseplants and summer containers, I became reacquainted with Aspidistra elatior, also known as the cast iron plant. It’s attractive, long, strappy, stiff, pointed green leaves can withstand harsh conditions, such as drought and low light, giving it its nickname and making it a perfect choice to green up an indoor nook or wall that lacks rays from the sun.
One reason I’m currently obsessed with this plant is the English Gracie Fields’ version of the English comedy song "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World" from 1938. I remember hearing it as a child on the radio, and now when I see or read about the plant the refrain becomes an earworm for days. You can Google and hear the original version on YouTube.
So I was excited when the Plant Delights Nursery Spring catalog arrived a week or so ago and I found a whole collection of unusual Aspidestras available for purchase. PDN proprietor and world-renowned plant collector Tony Avent has been collecting Aspidistras for decades. In his 28-acre botanical garden, the Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, he currently grows more than 41 species and 172 unique clones of which nine are currently available in the 2019 PDN spring catalog. The new species and clones range in height from 18 inches to 36 inches and sport an amazing variety of variegated leaves. Avent says the most asked about is Aspidistra elatior ‘Okame’, with 30” tall dark green leaves highlighted with dramatic vertical white stripes. It’s on my shopping list.
While tender plant shipping will not begin until the weather is frost-free, it’s wise to order your heart’s desire ASAP as “hot plants” sell out quickly.
To order the PDN Spring catalog call Plant Delights Nursery at (919) 772-4794 or go online at plantdelights.com.This catalog is a must for any plant collector so a copy along with a gift card makes perfect gifting for the hortiholic in your life.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.